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The Unexpected Story Behind Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Improvised ‘The Master’ Line

Jesse Plemons remembers the unusual bit of direction from Paul Thomas Anderson that led to Hoffman's big moment.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s work in “The Master” was ranked by IndieWire as the best film performance of the last decade, and Jesse Plemons is one of the lucky actors who got to see Hoffman perform live on set. Plemons starred in “The Master” as Val Dodd, son of Hoffman’s cult leader Lancaster Dodd. In a new interview with The Playlist, Plemons looked back at the making of Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2012 drama and remembered one moment on set that left him absolutely speechless over Hoffman’s towering acting skills.

“I have so many good memories from that, but one that sticks out that I’ll never forget is there’s this sequence in the movie where they go to this fundraiser and someone speaks out against Dodd,” Plemons said. “He starts badgering him and berating him with questions. We’d been shooting that scene for a long time; it was almost lunch. Paul usually does quite a few takes, and it seemed like Phil was reaching a point where [he] didn’t know what he wanted. Paul had to just walk up to [him], look at his hairline, and pluck a hair out. Like, what the fuck?”

Plucking out Hoffman’s hair sounds unusual, but Anderson knew what needed to be done in order to coax the performance out of Hoffman. The hair plucking did the tick, as Plemons remembers Hoffman nailing the next take with an improvised line that would impress everyone on set and become one of “The Master’s” most shocking moments.

“With the next take he reached a place that he hadn’t in previous takes, and out comes the ‘pig fuck’ line: ‘You pig fuck!,’ Plemons said. “Then it was like, ‘Alright, that’s lunch!’ We were all just totally in awe, mouths on the floor.”

The “pig fuck” line was so memorable that Anderson kept it in when the scene in question had to be reshot at a later date in a different location with a different actor opposite Hoffman. Plemons added, “I think about that a lot. Just one of a kind, no one like him,” while also calling Hoffman “so generous, nice, and focused.”

Plemons is currently making the Emmy season press rounds thanks to his performance in Netflix’s “Breaking Bad” prequel movie “El Camino,” in which he reprised his role as Todd. Next up for the actor is the lead role in Charlie Kaufman’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” which Netflix is expected to release in the fall.

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